BLOOMSBURG – As Capt. Troy Creasy prepared for this week Early Bird Sports Expo at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds, which runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, it would be understandable if the veteran New York State Fishing Guide had second guessed himself for leaving the warm weather and off shore fishing of Florida.
Considering what is ahead in the next few months for the veteran New York State fishing guides on the Lake Ontario tributaries of Oswego County, not even single-digit temperatures are a deterrent. From now through early April, some of the best steelhead – with a good mix of brown trout fishing of the season is to be had on both the Oswego and Salmon rivers and smaller streams.
Much has changed for the better so far as angler comfort is concerned when targeting winter steelhead and browns since Creasy moved from the Berwick area to become a fulltime fishing guide in the 1970s. Most of the improvements have come in the way of insulated clothing that provides freedom of movement, but nothing comes close to making an outing comfortable as portable heaters for driftboats.
"It's hard to believe there was a time when winter steelhead fishing was done by a select few who had been doing it even before the days of the salmon boom nearly 30 years ago," Creasy said. "There were actually days when you do a float trip on the Salmon River and not even see another boat or shore angler.
"Those days are long gone, not just because of the popularity of catching steelhead and brown trout in the winter, but this has become a world-class fishery. Stocking programs have been successful, and the overall attitude of anglers understanding the importance of catch-and-release to preserve the resource.
"Long gone are the days that when the salmon run ended in October, so were the fisherman until the following September. I'm not saying there are as many boats out or as many bank anglers for steelhead and browns as there are for salmon, but the popularity of winter fishing is obvious."
While salmon die after spawning, steelhead and brown trout remain in the tributaries after spawning in the fall to feed through the winter before returning to Lake Ontario in the spring. In the winter, the same steelhead and browns that take flies, egg sacks and small lures will attack large stickbaits and spoons from late April through mid-September in the lake.
Another aspect that adds to the allure of targeting winter steelhead and browns is that there are times when fresh runs of these fish enter the tributaries during the winter. When one gets into a fresh run of these fish, the action on light tackle is second to done.
Steelhead were introduced into the Great Lakes from the Pacific more than 50 years ago, and pound for pound are stronger fighters than the larger king salmon. And, according to the New York State officials, based on last summer's steelhead catch on Lake Ontario, their numbers should be plentiful for river anglers this winter.
Knowing there is a good chance to catch a trophy steelhead – or big brown – is enough to warm the soul of any angler – regardless of the temperature.
For more information on guided winter steelhead fishing trips, visit Capt. Troy Creasy today or Sunday at the Early Bird Sports Expo at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org  or visit the High Adventure Sportfishing website at www.highadventurefishing.com .